Syracuse University Coach Jim Boeheim's 'Harmful' Comments on Abuse Victims Sparks Ire

Advocacy Group for Sex Abuse Victims Demand Apology From Basketball Coach

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By Luiza Oleszczuk, Christian Post Reporter
November 28, 2011|2:44 pm

Syracuse University coach Jim Boeheim has spoken out in defense of Bernie Fine, the former assistant coach accused of sexually abusing three boys, and now the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), an organization uniting victims of sexual assault by church officials, is demanding an apology.

Syracuse University is currently facing a sex abuse scandal related to a coach, not unlike in the case of Penn State, which has grabbed the world's attention in the past weeks.

The issue came out after an alleged victim, Bobby Davis, now 39, made an announcement on ESPN claiming Fine had sexually abused him for more than 12 years starting in 1983, on the university's campus, when Davis was was the team's ball boy.

As of Monday, two more men were also accusing Fine of sexual abuse.

The former assistant coach was fired Sunday after having been suspended the prior week. The case only leaked to the mainstream media now, even though the university claims it began the investigation back in 2005, without finding solid proofs of abuse.

"At the direction of Chancellor Cantor, Bernie Fine's employment with Syracuse University has been terminated, effective immediately," university Senior Vice President Kevin Quinn said in a statement, referring to Syracuse Chancellor Nancy Cantor, CNN reported Monday.

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Fine has coached for Syracuse University for 35 years.

"The events of the past week have shaken us all," Cantor reportedly said in a statement Sunday. "No other witnesses came forward during the university investigation (in 2005), and those who felt they knew Bernie best could not imagine what has unfolded."

Jim Boeheim, the school team's coach who attended Syracuse University with Fine in the 1960s, accused Davis of lying and seeking financial gains from the case, in an interview he gave to Syracuse.com Friday. He also suggested it is too late to take action against Fine.

"So, we are supposed to what? Stop the presses 26 years later? For a false allegation? For what I absolutely believe is a false allegation?" he said.

Boeheim also denied he had seen Davis on multiple occasions in Fine's hotel room on Orange basketball road trips.

The coach suggested that Davis is lying in order to receive money from the university and Fine. He also referenced the Penn State scandal, suggesting the alleged victims of Jerry Sandusky are seeking financial gain as well.

"The Penn State thing came out and the kid behind this is trying to get money. He's tried before. And now he's trying again," Boeheim told Syracuse.com. "If he gets this, he's going to sue the university and Bernie. What do you think is going to happen at Penn State? You know how much money is going to be involved in civil suits? I'd say about $50 million. That's what this is about. Money."

SNAP members were outraged at Boeheim's comments.

"We're glad that Bernie Fine has been fired but it's crucial that Syracuse University officials discipline Jim Boeheim for his extraordinarily hurtful recent comments attacking abuse victims," SNAP Director David Clohessy said in a statement Monday. "Boeheim's apology will do little or nothing to 'undo' the harm he's caused. Nor will it deter others from making similarly callous comments in the future."

Clohessy added that if the university really wants to "move forward" and create a safe climate for abuse victims, it must take "decisive action" against Boeheim.

SNAP is an organization that consists largely of people who also reported their abuse only years after the fact, as they were molested as children. Many claim they were sexually abused while living in Catholic boarding schools. In some cases, alleged offenders had already died by the time allegations were made public.

Following the Penn State scandal, in which former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was accused of assaulting eight underage boys over a period of 15 years, SNAP expressed concern for the feelings of the victims, especially when Penn State students started protesting the firing of Joe Paterno, the former head coach who was accused by the public for not doing enough to help prevent the alleged assaults.

"This is about these victims and what did not happen to protect children. That's all that this is about," Peter Isely, a founding member of SNAP told The Christian Post at the time.

The organization stated that Penn State University management should do everything they can to change the way they report and investigate sex crimes, in order to protect their students and other vulnerable people using the campus in the future.

"This is an opportunity for Paterno and others to learn from their failure to protect the most vulnerable members of our community and model personal and public responsibility," SNAP stated in a press release at the time.

In September, SNAP sued Vatican officials, including Pope Benedict XVI at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The organization told CP that it is not looking for vengeance, but that members do think the internal legal mechanisms at the Holy See need to be changed. The current system is too protective of the priests, and still puts children in danger, the group claims.

Pope Benedict XVI referenced the sexual scandal in a Nov. 26 address directed at U.S. victims.

"I wish to acknowledge personally the suffering inflicted on the victims and the honest efforts made to ensure both the safety of our children and to deal appropriately and transparently with allegations as they arise," the pontiff said.

He added, "It is my hope that the Church's conscientious efforts to confront this reality will help the broader community to recognize the causes, true extent and devastating consequences of sexual abuse, and to respond effectively to this scourge which affects every level of society. By the same token, just as the church is rightly held to exacting standards in this regard, all other institutions, without exception, should be held to the same standards."

Luiza.o@christianpost.com
 

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